Trump Finally Remembered That He Owes Sarah Palin a Favor

Palin gives Trump a key endorsement in 2016. Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP/Shutterstock/Mary Altaffer/AP/Shutterstock

The past few days have been a whirlwind for Sarah Palin. On Friday, she entered Alaska’s special election to finish the U.S. House term of the late Don Young an hour before the deadline. Two days later, her effort to become more than a blast-from-the-past nostalgia item got a serious boost: an endorsement from Donald Trump. Here’s the former president’s effusive statement, extending the usual “Complete and Total Endorsement”:

Wonderful patriot Sarah Palin of Alaska just announced that she is running for Congress, and that means there will be a true America First fighter on the ballot to replace the late and legendary Congressman Don Young. Sarah shocked many when she endorsed me very early in 2016, and we won big. Now, it’s my turn! Sarah has been a champion for Alaska values, Alaska energy, Alaska jobs, and the great people of Alaska. She was one of the most popular Governors because she stood up to corruption in both State Government and the Fake News Media. Sarah lifted the McCain presidential campaign out of the dumps despite the fact that she had to endure some very evil, stupid, and jealous people within the campaign itself. They were out to destroy her, but she didn’t let that happen. Sarah Palin is tough and smart and will never back down, and I am proud to give her my Complete and Total Endorsement, and encourage all Republicans to unite behind this wonderful person and her campaign to put America First!

Note how quickly Trump focused on himself: “Sarah shocked many when she endorsed me very early in 2016, and we won big. Now, it’s my turn!”

If this really is payback for Palin’s pre-Iowa 2016 endorsement of Trump, he took his sweet time getting around to it. She was widely reported as expressing interest in joining Trump’s Cabinet after his improbable election, and there was talk of her being considered for secretary of Veterans Affairs. But it came to nothing. One theory is that Sarah Barracuda angered Trump by publicly criticizing as “crony capitalism” a deal that he cut in December of 2016 with the Carrier Company to keep jobs from going to Mexico. In any event, she really began to fade from the limelight during the Trump administration, having already lost a high-profile, lucrative perch at Fox News.

It’s possible Trump is rewarding Palin for a more recent favor: her willingness to promote his election fables. She was one of several Republicans who undermined the party’s candidates in Georgia’s 2021 Senate elections; while campaigning for David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, Palin couldn’t stop complaining about how Joe Biden’s presidential win was “rigged.” She later defended Trump’s conduct during the January 6 insurrection.

Whatever Trump’s motivation, the endorsement raises his already significant stakes in Alaska politics this year. He has repeatedly denounced Republican senator Lisa Murkowski (who, among other sins, voted for his removal from office after his second impeachment) and endorsed her MAGA rival, Kelly Tshibaka. The new election system Alaska voters created in a 2020 ballot initiative, featuring a nonpartisan top-four primary followed by a general election with ranked-choice voting, has probably made Murkowski even harder to beat than before (and she already survived a conservative purge effort in 2010). This same system could given Palin a manageable path to a general election: If she’s among the top four in the nonpartisan June 11 primary, she will move on to the special general election on August 16.

Still, winning the seat could be tough for Palin. Is the woman who resigned from her gubernatorial position barely two and a half years into her single term an appropriate successor to Young, who doggedly held his House seat and accumulated seniority for 49 years? And is a show horse like Palin ultimately what Alaskans — who are unusually dependent on the federal government and federal policies — want for their sole representative in the House? One of Palin’s first big flaps after John McCain made her his 2008 running mate was her repudiation of the so-called “Bridge to Nowhere” earmark that Young and Republican senator Ted Stevens secured for Alaska (she had supported the project earlier). Even if Alaskans agreed with Palin about that one earmark, it’s unlikely that they want an abstemious anti-Washington extremist carrying their flag in the distant capital, much less someone who, for a long while, was a global figure of ridicule. But Trump’s support gives her a chance to join the MAGA caucus in the House, in which she would barely stand out at all.

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Trump Finally Remembered That He Owes Sarah Palin a Favor